Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thursday is Spanish Day!

Today was our first day of Spanish "preschool." Which means I spent about 20-30 minutes reading, talking and playing games in Spanish. With Renae of course (without her it kind of defeats the purpose, huh?) I decided we'll be doing a unit on the human body which I chose because Renae has a Sesame St. video (all in Spanish) about the body that I let her watch almost once a day, and we recently checked out a book from the library all about feet. (Also, all in Spanish.) Plus . . . when I taught 1st-6th grade Spanish, we had an entire unit about the body so I didn't have to think real hard about how to prepare my curriculum. I do need to modify it for an almost 3 year old though . . . .

Anyways, it was pretty fun and Renae really enjoyed it. We read our book, and I asked her questions along the way to see if she was understanding. Then I taught her the song "Cabeza, hombros, rodillas y pies." (Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes) After the story and song time, we played "Memoria" (memory) using different pictures of body parts. As we each took turns flipping cards over, I had her say the word in Spanish.

Here are some language teaching tips if you are interested in doing some Spanish (or another language) lessons at home:
  • During the entire lesson, I only spoke to her in Spanish. There is no need for me to translate from English to Spanish for her during these activities. It will do her no good to have a brain trained to "translate." Imagine if our brains did that in English when we were learning as a baby? "Ok that's the ubly kos babble da which means . . . think Sammy, think! What does that translate to in English? I got it! Red ball!" If you want to teach your child a second language, but don't have the fluidity to speak it, work as hard as you can to NOT constantly translate from English to the target language. I promise you that if you simply teach your child a word and match it to the correct picture, they will learn it WITHOUT referencing English. It's how we all learned our first native tongue.
  • Don't be afraid of switching your kid's favorite video to Spanish (or French-a common 3rd option). I don't let Renae watch much TV, but I do let her watch the Sesame St. video, or her favorite TV show from Spain, Pocoyo, almost every day. Note that neither of these videos were made with the intent to teach children Spanish. They are simply videos made for children, using the Spanish language. Remember that learning another language at this age is the easiest! So kids do not need to have lessons in grammar, watch videos geared towards teaching you how to speak in Spanish, etc. They just need to be immersed in the language. Read to them, check out recordings of Spanish books, watch Spanish movies, teach them vocabulary . . . they can do it.
  • Do you know a fellow Mom who is a native Spanish speaker and speaks it to her children? Start a play group! If she is new to the US, you can help her learn English, she can help you learn Spanish, and your kids can play together while learning their own mix of Spanglish.
  • See if your local library offers a Spanish story time. The last town we lived in offered one once a month (and Russian too!) and our new library . . . well I'm working on it! Actually, Ive been talking with one of the librarians there so that I can do a Spanish story time once a month.

You don't need to be fluent in a language to teach your child some basic lessons. Sure, they aren't going to become native speakers by just having a half hour lesson each week of vocabulary, books and games, but it will help! And until your child gets the opportunity to be immersed in the language, your little lessons will increase their brain power which is always a good thing.

The funniest thing Renae has been doing lately in regards to Spanish is when I ask her a question in Spanish, she'll usually respond in English . . . correctly! So I'm learning that she understands much of what is said to her in Spanish, but lacks the vocabulary to say what she'd like to say. This also means that I need to start speaking to her more in Spanish . . . . I'll try and be inspired by my friend Bea from Spain who speaks to her son Jaime almost entirely in English while her husband speaks to him in Spanish. That's the way to do it folks!

***If you want me to post some of the materials I'm using on my blog for your own Spanish lessons, leave me a comment and I'll try and load those onto Google documents.***


Nate and Natalie said...

Very encouraged by this blog. I have thought of teaching Elyse and you gave some great suggestions. I maybe getting in touch with you later if I really pursue this.

Meredith said...

I am dying from laughter right kids learned that song at school and sing it around the house. I've always wondered what they were saying for knees and now that I see it spelled out, I know that whatever they are singing is nowhere near rodillas! I'm gonna have to make them sing it for me tonight so I can hear one more time what they've been saying before I correct them. :)

Beatriz said...

Your post make me think how much easier will this bilingual thing would be if you were here with me... I learned so much with you... and finding a new American mum is not that easy, you left too high expectations...
I´m looking forward to talk to Renae in Spanish!!!

Tracie and Ricky said...

i just came across your blog from the VWM's blog. we have a bi-lingual home since my husband is Chilean. I'm from the US but have been living in Peru for over 6 years and am (thank God) fluent! Our daughter is being immersed in both languages but my main focus is teaching her English! Since we live in Peru she is picking up on the Spanish way faster. But everything you said is SO true. Kids are like little sponges and will learn so fast. And they learn from the get-go that each "thing" has 2 names or ways of saying it (or 3 if you're working on 3 languages!) I'm adding in Quechua words now and then, since it's the second language where we live. And perhaps some Italian since my hubby is part Italian! Wouldn't that be neat to have a child who speaks 4 languages by the time they are 5?